C. S. Lewis wrote often of his search for Joy (which he always capitalized). As a non-Christian, it was an inconsolable longing for something always beyond reach. As a Christian, it took on an entirely new quality. In his autobiography, Surprised By Joy, he goes into some detail about what it meant to him. I’ll let him share now:
In a sense, the central story of my life is about nothing else. . . . It is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again.
Apart from that and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.
Note the clear distinction Lewis made between Joy, on the one hand, and Happiness and Pleasure on the other. Joy is deeper, while the others can be superficial and transitory. He even says in another place that he thinks all pleasures are merely poor substitutes for real Joy. Near the end of his autobiography, he provides a summary of his thinking on the subject of Joy:
But what, in conclusion, of Joy? For that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian. I cannot, indeed, complain . . . that the visionary gleam has passed away. I believe . . . that the old stab, the old bittersweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time of my life whatever.
But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never had the kind of importance I once gave it. It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts. When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, “Look!” The whole party gathers around and stares.
But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. “We would be at Jerusalem.”
The reality is greater than that which points to the reality, and that is where our focus should be.